Robert Johnson wants Major League Baseball to keep a 49 percent stake in the Montreal Expos if he reaches a deal to buy the team and move it to the Washington area.

Johnson, the founder of Black Entertainment Television, is interested in owning the team if it is moved to the District or Northern Virginia.

He said yesterday that he would want to buy only 51 percent, with MLB having the right to sell the rest to him several years after the team moves into a new ballpark.

"They don't need to put money in their pockets right now," he said. "Baseball's goal should be to relocate a team out of a failing market to a market that's going to make money."

Johnson said he would want to know particulars of ballpark financing before deciding whether he wants the Expos, saying he also needs to know about "naming rights, parking revenue."

"For me, it's a waiting game," he said. "I will not bid for a team. I will look at the numbers and if the numbers make sense, I will raise my hand and say I'm a candidate." . . .

More than 125,000 tickets have been sold for the 22 games Montreal will play at 20,000-seat Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico, MLB said. Full and partial season ticket packages went on sale Jan. 18, but individual tickets for some games have not yet been available

* PHILLIES: Pitcher Jose Mesa is being investigated by the commissioner's office for his threats against Indians shortstop Omar Vizquel.

Close friends as teammates in Cleveland from 1992 to 1998, Mesa and Vizquel have had tense relations since the shortstop's autobiography was published last year.

"If I face him, I'll hit him," Mesa told the Bucks County (Pa.) Courier Times. "I won't try to hit him in the head, but I'll hit him. And if he charges me, I'll kill him."

* METS-DODGERS: New York catcher Mike Piazza started a bench-clearing brawl when he charged the mound after being hit by a pitch from Los Angeles reliever Guillermo Mota. The two had a shoving match last year in spring training after the pitcher hit Piazza on the hip.

Mota's second pitch to Piazza hit him on the back of the shoulder. Piazza charged with his right fist cocked. Mota threw his glove at him and began backpedaling.

Mets outfielder Jeromy Burnitz chased Mota after Piazza was restrained by two Dodgers. Mota made it to the dugout without begin caught.

Piazza yelled at Mota while being restrained by coaches and umpires. Twice he tried to charge the dugout, but was held back.

* PIRATES: Pitcher Dennys Reyes was hit on the head by a line drive off the bat of the Devil Rays' Aubrey Huff. The left-hander sat on the mound for about five minutes while trainers examined him, then left sitting on a cart. He was taken to a hospital, treated and released; there was no sign of fracture or concussion.

* OLD PITCHERS: The Twins signed Kenny Rogers, 38, to a one-year contract. The Mariners' Norm Charlton, 40, needs shoulder surgery that may end his career. The Reds' Jose Rijo, 37, had right elbow surgery; he's out four weeks. The Indians' Mark Wohlers, 33, had elbow surgery; he's out at least the first two months of the season.